by Joe Hammerschmidt
With the arrival of Deadpool 2, one may easily prove two years is the ripest waiting period for a sequel of its nature. Sure, waiting longer will either build nostalgia, or sour the taste like so many, so of course, it’s dependent on the property. Audiences for comic book films tend to stay quite restless, which means the goal of bringing back Ryan Reynolds and his spotless embodiment of a mercy killer in a blood-mingling spandex suit had to be achieved in record time. Despite a needful director replacement and plenty of on-set creative indifferences, Reynolds’ reflection of the character paired with the hyperviolent flair of up-and-coming director David Leitch makes for a delicate wine-and-cheese that could never be torn apart.
Of course, we have to start with a slightly atypical recap montage of how former special op Wade Wilson (Reynolds) had been keeping himself busy, kicking ass, taking names, and often running when the action overwhelms. At least there’s still Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) to come home to, at least at first, won’t go any further than that. Regardless, after two years of the usual nonsense, Wade does crave a challenge, new job goals, whatever can keep things fresh for him, and for the audience looking for more than just an origin story continuation which is carefully avoided by Reynolds and co-writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.
What can’t be helped is the added emphasis that tries as we can to ignore the truth, “Deadpool 2 is technically part of the X-Men franchise”, which I personally refuse to accept for the time being. Yet its future may rest square on Wade and the formation of a secondary squadron, triumphantly named X-Force, and utilizing who all is available, specifically Colossus (Stefan Kapecic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). The trio reluctantly teams up to pull in line a possible New Mutants reject who simply didn’t get along with the other kids. His name is Russell (performed so perfectly by Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison), a victim of strict mental conditioning, or religious brainwashing, and he clearly has no interest in either locking away for his protection or honing his powers to be used for good. He doesn’t necessarily evolve into a Robin to Wade’s Batman, yet his candor as an evil wild child with plenty of guilt to keep him in line still make him a welcome joy.
Now to Cable, the second character of what could be Josh Brolin’s most enjoyable single year (the Sicario sequel is up next, so fingers crossed it could be 3-for-3). His presence, simply to outdo Russell in the past for a chain of events that would outdo his future, is like a long-form dance, starts in the background so as to not outrank the principal actors. But it does take a little time for his purpose to fully enact on the leads, my nitpickiness would say to get him involved faster, but his formal entrance is still enjoyable, well worth all the teases in the marketing. Most importantly, he is indeed the purest antithesis to his in-your-face Thanos just three weeks ago in Infinity War. Shedding away the mo-cap costume, we leave the soul of a delicate dramatic actor, a fair exchange. And then there are the other newcomer characters who more than earn their bread. Zazie Beetz, of Atlanta fame, will have deserved some more screen time in the eventual X-force team up feature with her Domino, an unapologetic anti-hero with supposed luck on her side and a slight temper. Beetz is such a natural choice, it’s almost impossible to distinguish the actress from the character, almost as if she were modeled a little differently from the comics to resemble a more comical foil to Wade. Perhaps, maybe. Also, among the potential X-Force trainees, Terry Crews (still starring in Brooklyn Nine-Nine for another year, thanks to NBC) stands as the sparkling MVP with his portrayal of Bedlam. Without giving too much away, pay close attention when he appears and you’ll understand why.
As for Reynolds, he, of course, is still in the driver’s seat, just a little more than the first one. Leitch, who proved his Hard-R style on John Wick, and last year’s understated favorite Atomic Blonde, is co-pilot, sharing two unique vertices of the same vision, still all Wade. The huge difference you’ll notice right from the beginning, way more action-driven, but that shouldn’t come as a large surprise. That freeway chase and the final boss battle of the first can’t hold a candle to a string of consistent fisticuff-laden scenes that, to this reviewer’s surprise, don’t grow exhaustive. Matter of fact, there is still so much room to spare for light-foot comedy (Reynolds’ department), and a metric ton of heartfelt compassion, instantly not Wade’s strong suit but he warms up to the idea. I may be a little too bold to proclaim the hallmarks, and blunders of Ryan’s varied acting career had prepared him so well for each corner this sequel touches, blowing unnecessary expectations out of the water. It’s certainly his show, with a diverse supporting cast further complimenting his every move. Needless to say, watch out for so many rapid-fire meta gags that only add to the fun, of which only Reynolds could achieve on a serious level; for one, the Celine Dion Oscar-bait tune that dominated the internet for a day or two? It is used very effectively in its rightful place, yet I’d rather not spill here.
There is a very warm place in the center of my heart where Deadpool 2 ought to go; it was left very empty after the original had to disappear, but thankfully the second is a little more gentle, free-spirited, not as weighed down by origin story requirements. While running a little longer than the original, each minute is spent with extra care building strong character development and letting the raunchy jokes fly. One may be taken aback by the sudden family aesthetic Wade encompasses, but rest assured it only increases the character’s lore. Chances are, it may very well ensure franchise stability as multiple confusing continuities are retired, in favor of something brand new, exciting, worth of extended replay value. Reynolds has proven once and for all he is the true personification of Deadpool, and vice versa, with all the smut, grit, and gore one could shake their literal moneymakers at. Bring on the X-Force movie, and let a new chapter begin. And of course, do stay for the glorious capper during the mid-credits; there was nothing at the tail end, at least for the screening audience I was a part of. (A-)
Deadpool 2 is in most area theaters this weekend; rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material; 119 minutes.